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Rosendale drops US Senate bid days after announcing run

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Rosendale drops US Senate bid days after announcing run

Feb 15, 2024 | 6:56 pm ET
By Blair Miller
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Rosendale drops US Senate bid days after announcing run
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Congressman Matt Rosendale speaks at the Montana GOP's 2024 kickoff event on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Helena a day after announcing his U.S. Senate campaign. (Photo by Blair Miller, Daily Montanan)

Just days after announcing he’d square off with Republican Tim Sheehy in Montana’s Republican U.S. Senate primary, Congressman Matt Rosendale dropped his bid, in part because former President Donald Trump quickly endorsed Sheehy.

A spokesperson for Rosendale confirmed Thursday afternoon Rosendale was ending his campaign just six days after he officially started it and provided a statement from Rosendale. Politico first reported Rosendale’s decision Thursday afternoon.

In the statement, Rosendale chalks up Trump’s endorsement of the Bozeman businessman just four hours after Rosendale’s announcement as a key reason that he saw no path forward in what was expected to be a knock-down, drag-out primary that Senate Republican leadership had hoped to avoid.

“The day I announced, President Trump then announced that he was endorsing a different candidate. I have long been a supporter of the President, and remain so. But I have been forced to calculate what my chances of success would be with Trump supporting my opponent,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale said the race with Sheehy was already going to be tough because Sheehy is backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Steve Daines, Gov. Greg Gianforte, Rep. Ryan Zinke, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other high-profile Republicans, lending him significant advertising and fundraising opportunities.

Rosendale said he felt like he could win the primary, but Trump’s endorsement changed the landscape.

“By my calculations, with Trump endorsing my opponent and the lack of resources, the hill was just too steep. I spoke with Sen. Daines earlier this week and we both agree that this is the best path forward for Republicans to regain the majority in the U.S. Senate,” Rosendale said in his statement.

Tim Sheehy, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2024, speaks at the Montana GOP 2024 kick-off event on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. (Photo by Blair Miller, Daily Montanan)
Tim Sheehy, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2024, speaks at the Montana GOP 2024 kick-off event on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. (Photo by Blair Miller, Daily Montanan)

Both candidates spoke last weekend at the Montana Republican Party’s 2024 kick-off event but did little to highlight the endorsement at the time, focusing more on their own policies and trying to outline their differences.

Rosendale and a spokesperson for him, Aashka Varma, said he had yet to decide whether he would run again for his 2nd Congressional District seat in eastern Montana and that he would be back home with his family for a few days “and will prayerfully consider what is next.”

A host of Republicans, including the state auditor and superintendent of public instruction, have already declared their candidacy in the primary for Rosendale’s seat – some doing so only after Rosendale announced his Senate bid.

Asked about if the campaign had any regrets about waiting so long to enter the race after teasing a possible Senate run for months, Varma said it was clear that the Washington, D.C., “establishment” never wanted him to run for Senate, but also said Trump’s quick endorsement caught the campaign off-guard.

Varma said the fundraising hill the campaign would have to overcome against the NRSC and other big-money political action committees would be too much, as Rosendale started the year with $1.6 million in cash but raised less than $100,000 in the final quarter of 2023.

Sheehy had $1.3 million in cash on hand, but raised more than $5 million in the final six months of last year and also is a multi-millionaire who has already given his campaign nearly $1 million.

Fox News also reported Wednesday that Sheehy’s campaign had dropped a six-figure advertising buy that started running this week that features Trump’s endorsement of Sheehy.

The political advertising tracker AdImpact reported earlier this month that there were already $89 million in ad buys from Democratic and Republican groups set to run later this year as whoever wins the Republican primary faces off with three-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in what is expected to be one of the most expensive races in the country. Former Public Service Commission chair Brad Johnson is also running in the Republican primary.

In a statement, Sheehy thanked Rosendale for service in Washington and said the two should work together in the race against Tester.

“Matt, Montana is grateful for your service and for showing Washington, D.C. what it means to hold the line on reckless spending. I know working together we’ll win this race and defeat Jon Tester,” Sheehy said.

Daines, who is chairman of the NRSC currently, said in a statement he appreciated Rosendale’s service.

“I appreciate Matt’s many years of service to Montana. It will take all Republicans working together to defeat Jon Tester in November,” Daines said in a statement provided by the NRSC.

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sheila Hogan said Rosendale’s thoughts on Sheehy were correct.

“Rosendale spent months making the case that Tim Sheehy has no place representing Montana in the Senate and he was right: Sheehy is an out-of-state tech millionaire completely out of touch with Montana’s way of life.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Sheehy.